May 21, 2009
Eyes closed, breathe in deep. Nuzzle the hair, soft and sweet. Fingers pressed into her thigh. Tongue dancing across her skin.
I touch her, taste her. I watch her, smell her. Nothing has ever been so glorious.
She, writhing in ecstasy. Me, holding her there. Mouth on her flesh. Nose in her hair. Her body tenses, face twists. Muffled cry crawling from her lips. Pelvic contractions. A sudden smell of musk, Signal she’s almost ready for me.
Her tension relaxes. Body goes soft. Release my hold, Drag myself up. Soft kisses all the way. On her pale hips. Across her stomach. Right around to her ribs.
Arms above her head, still holding the pillow. Eyes half open. Body bare. I reach to cup her breast. My lips graze the nipple. Kiss her full lips. Taste her whole mouth. Souls ready and waiting. Fingers find her, exploring all the offerings
Raise up to see her. Candles burning, cast a soft glow across her flush skin. My hips
Dipping the quill back to the pot, debating if I should continue. But this is not about my pleasure, or even hers. Oh how I miss the taste of a woman. Somehow writing about it eases my tension. I can still see them, and smell them. Everyday I smell them. An assault on my senses. It’s brutal. But I don’t allow myself to taste them. Don’t even get close enough to.
My one and only love was young in the days when it was exquisite to be round and plump. I see women today who are so small that their bones protrude from their skin. That used to signal that she was homeless and starving, maybe even a prostitute. Broken and used. Now a days these women are put on pedestals. Some things I may never understand.
Tapping the ink from my pen I laid it aside. Capped the pot and ponder my canvas. Written words, not at all elegant. Somehow the quill and pot with the parchment don’t fit in on this most modern of desks. I am disappointed in the script, but at least I am not hungry anymore. In frustration I push it all to the back of the desk.
Somehow I have drifted over to the love seat. I find myself laid out across it, feet propped on one end. Daydreaming of the glorious women of my youth. My lazy thoughts broken by that evil cell phone ringing. Ah this can only mean that someone needs something from me. Alas, I may have something to do this evening after all.
“Hi James. It’s Eve from The Tanner Club.” Came the sweet husky voice from the other end.
“Yes, Eve. What can I do for you? Is everything alright at the club?”
“John asked me to call you. One of the security cameras isn’t working. When we turned the system on, the front door feed shows nothing. Just static. Is there a quick fix for this, or will you be gracing us with your presence this evening?” She’s flirting with me again.
“Well, there probably is a quick fix for it. But since that is my job, not yours, I will come down and take a look at it for you. I don’t have any other clients tonight, so I will be out shortly. OK?”
“Yeah” she said “That would be great. Maybe you can get it all taken care of before we start to get busy.”
“Sounds like a plan. Alright I will see you shortly.”
The sky is starting to fall dark. Later and later each day as the warm months over take the grip that Winter has had on the city. It’s nearing 8pm now. Friday night? I will have to hustle to make it over there before the crowds start lining up.
Down to the street where I have parked my car. It’s new. Nothing spectacular. Reminds me though, that not everything modern is bad. Cruise control and digital radio are things I rather like.
Driving deeper into the city, I pass a lot of client’s properties. I am a technological security specialist. I operate as a freelancer. There is something my clients like about my one man operation. I am the only one who knows the details about their systems. Discretion is important to some of my more vulnerable clients. On the other hand, if something goes wrong, I am the first one they look at. I don’t tend to run into those problems though.
Walking in the city mid-May is still refreshing. The days are getting warmer, but the nights still have a chill to them. It’s a clean air and I drink it in thoroughly.
Pushing through the heavy doors, it’s always darker in than out. Ah the smell of booze and stale cigarette smoke. The sound of glass clinking led my eyes to the bar. Eve was busy stacking and organizing. Preparing for what will surely be a large crowd. She looked up and waved to me. A warm inviting smile on her face.
She has a classic beauty that she is not aware of. She leads the kind of life that has no room for such foolish things. Her round face is framed in tons of long, dark brown curls. Red lips frame perfect teeth when she laughs. She is soft and curvy. Large, full breasts. Wide hips that I just know are soft and smooth.
She dropped her towel and made her way from behind the bar. “Hey there. I’ll take you up to the office.”
I followed her as she headed for the stairs. Shorts cut to the middle of her thighs. Thick muscular legs gallop up the stairs. She rapped at the door and then opened it. John was behind the desk shuffling through papers. I could see the blank monitor, one of four, screaming to be fixed.
John looked up and I nodded to him “Mr. Tanner. I understand one of my cameras has failed. I am going to run down to the lobby and see if I can get it worked out. OK?”
He stood up and came around the desk towards me. “Thanks for coming out so soon.” Flipping through his keys, he slid one small key off the ring and handed it to me “This is the key for the recorder cabinet” gesturing toward the wooden case under the monitors. “Lemme know if you need anything else.”
He turned to face Eve “Do we need to place an order with Boston Liquors for anything?” They headed back down stairs chatting about bar issues.
I opened up the cabinet to take a look at all the receiver components. Finding nothing out of place or broken, I closed it up and headed for the lobby.
In the ceiling downstairs I found a wire has come loose from the camera. I love an easy fix. I tightened it up and replaced the ceiling tile. I checked the other cameras at the restrooms, the office and last the bar.
Eve was back to her tasks. As I stood on the back of the bar I could feel her looking up at me. A quick glance at her and she blushed. “Everything alright up there?” She asked.
“Yep. Just adjusting the camera angle to capture the whole register area.” She was checking out my ass. I lazily dropped down from the bar.
I ran back upstairs to check all the feeds. All 4 monitors up and running. I hit the record button on the receiver and locked the cabinet.
“Mr. Tanner” handing him back his key “The connection had come loose on the lobby camera. Probably from the bass pounding in the club. It’s all fixed now. I also tightened up the other 3 cameras. You should be good.”
“Thanks. If your all done for the night, have a drink at the bar. Just tell Eve to put it on my card.”
I had already planned to stop at the bar on my way out. “Your very kind. Have a good night sir.” And I closed the door behind me.
Outside the office I could hear the music had already started. It’s not too loud this early in the evening. I could sense people milling about.
Stepping off the last step into the club I waved at Marcus. Aside from being a good friend of mine he’s also the weekend DJ. A black man of average height. Muscular but not ripped. He is known for wearing a newsboys cap everywhere he goes.
He was already posted up in his booth. Headphones on, playing around with some tracks, I guess. When he saw me he pulled the headphones off, shuffled some stuff in the booth and came down to greet me.
We shook hands and I asked “How are things going around here?”
“About as calm and peaceful as you are going to find in a dance club. Nothing major since the shooting last year.” he answered, as we sat at the bar.
The Club Tanner sits on just this side of the tracks. Wealthy people like to pretend to live dangerously by coming here. Problem is The Club Tanner is not far enough removed from the bad elements of the city. Occasionally a hood rat will get a wild hair up his ass and figure this place as an easy target.
When I implemented the new security system a couple years ago the problems were much worse. The place was new. John Tanner let anyone in the door. That lead to a lot of trouble. I clued him in about dress codes. And convinced him that maximum occupancy should be way less than what the building code called for. We also installed the cameras for operating hours and motion detectors for when the place was closed. This made his club, exclusive, comfortable and safe for the most part.
Last years shooting actually occurred because the door men enforced the dress code, and the would be patron was very upset. Better that he shot the Kevlar clad door man than a club full of wealthy, unsuspecting drunk people.
Perched on our stools, Marcus and I waited for Eve to finish serving her customer. When she made her way down to us, Marcus ordered a soda. Eve looked over to me “A scotch and water?” she asked.
I nodded “If it’s not to much trouble.”
I could probably drink the scotch straight, but that sort of seems uncivilized. The truth is I can’t taste the scotch, and a buzz only comes if I have consumed the better half of a bottle. Even then, it’s mild and doesn’t last long.
She dropped a few cubes into a short glass and simultaneously poured the water and scotch. Placed a lime on the rim, put the glass on a napkin and slid it over to me. At which point I promptly took the lime and tossed it into the garbage behind the bar. “Sorry babe. I keep telling you I don’t take lime.”
“Fine by me,” she says, throwing a towel over her shoulder “I just make them the way I was told. What you do with it is up to you.”
I find that I am staring at her as she speaks. So matter of fact with a hint of ‘fuck you’ in her tone. Not that she holds any ill will towards me.
I have known her for years. I met her here, when I first implemented the security. She used to only manage the bar, but has since taken on an apprenticeship at a local tattoo studio. She spends most of her days there. Recommended my services to the studio owner. As things progress there, she works less and less here. She is still the manager, but mostly only works weekends.
Absentmindedly I shook my head and inhaled the air around her. God she smells good. When I opened my eyes she was looking at me with a grin. “Something else I can get for you James?”
I was mildly embarrassed, “No this will do for now.” With that she took off down the bar to see about a couple of giggly girls who had just walked in.
Marcus got up from his stool and leaned in towards my ear, “Nice to see you again man. I have to get back up to the booth. Catch ya later.”
I nodded at him and looked back down into my glass. Deciding whether I should allow myself to get a buzz this evening. I don’t have any other clients. Eve is strolling back and forth behind the bar. Yeah, seems like a good night for it. I drained my glass and pushed it to her edge of the bar.
As people started to make their way in to the club, Marcus turned the music up a bit. I see Eve is getting her stride. Though she hasn’t noticed my empty glass yet. Slick guys are already trying to figure out who they might want to go home with. Offering to buy the scantily clad girls more booze. A few brave souls made their way to the dance floor. Hips grinding air and breast bouncing, most distasteful. I turned on my stool back to face the bar.
Eve plucked up my glass, dumped the ice and began another drink. “Heavy on the scotch” I said to her. Trying to fill my void with liquor. She pours a heavy scotch, and a grin crawls across her face as she placed another lime on the lip and slid it across to me.
“Woman…” as I removed the lime “more liquor less lime.” And I tossed the lime behind the bar again.
She started to unbutton her long sleeve button down shirt. First a couple on the bottom, and I raised an eyebrow. “I just think it’s cute the way you lean across my bar to toss them.” she said as she tied the bottom up into a knot.
I leaned up and across the bar, taking aim at the garbage again with nothing to throw. A very strong smell of her and I inhaled it and sat back down. “Very cute” she says while unbuttoning the top three. She walked down to the other end of the bar.
Swirling the ice around my glass, I looked around the quickly filling club. This really is not my scene. What am I doing? I can’t have her. Why torture myself? I am still hungry. If I continue on my way, my buzz may lead to unforgivable acts. I drained the glass and pushed it back.
Heading down towards Eve I pulled a fifty from it’s clip and fold it neatly. When she was done I took her hand and tucked the bill into it, “Put the drinks on my tab will ya?”
“Yeah sure” she said, stuffing the bill in her front pocket. “Are you taking off?”
“Yes. You know I can’t handle this pounding music.”
In my loft, I am wandering aimlessly. Pacing back and forth. It’s only 11pm. Already I’m bored. The nights are so long. Painfully lonely. This is never going to get any easier.
Flipping open my cell I dialed Raven. That’s not his real name, only what he insists everyone call him. I almost loath our friendship. He leads a rich and rewarding life. He is comfortable with himself.
“Hey, it’s James. What kind of trouble are you getting into tonight?”
A pause “Nothing far removed from the usual.” he answered “The drink is flowing thanks to the lovelies who accompany me tonight.”
I wrestle with my hunger, mulling it over in my mind. Finally I said “I need to get out of the loft for a bit. Mind if I stop by?”
“Your always welcome here. See you in a bit?”
I feel the tug “Yeah, I’ll be right along.” and we hung up.
Raven’s home is a most tasteful mix of modern and classic design. It’s expansive on a large heavily wooded lot. All the luxury of Victorian style mixed with the trappings of the modern era. Pulling through the circle drive I can see all the lights glowing. Laughter trails out of the long upstairs windows.
I can be myself here. Just for fun I bound up to the second story balcony where the open door is waiting, pushed through the long red velvet drapes and into the room.
Large brushed leather couches. An antique billiards table. Large flat screen TV mounted to the wall. Large trays of fresh fruit grace glass tables. The bar where surely wine is flowing freely. Raven has taken a liking to the modern woman, skinny and taut. There are plenty of those here to make my point.
Mixed in on the couches are other acquaintances of mine. Of them Raven is the only one I would really call a friend. We have known each other a long time. He is selfish and greedy much like the others, but we have something else. An unspoken brotherhood, we both understand.
Raven stood for only a moment to motion me over to him. Seated back between what he calls his lovelies, he made the introductions. “Ladies this is my dear friend James.” I nodded to the girls strewn about him. “He is one of us, so I am sure that you will do all you can to make him feel at home.” He doesn’t bother to name them. It’s likely he does not know. From their lustful gazes I doubt they care. They do smell lovely though. And as I took my seat across from Raven, one of them gracefully settled herself into my lap.
I could hear her heartbeat. Feel her warmth radiating onto my leg. I closed my eyes and drank in the smell of her. So clean and fresh.
Raven broke my thoughts “How is business?”
My eyes flash open and took the girl on my lap by surprise. I could feel her inspecting me, but I spoke to Raven. “Oh same as usual. You know my clientele is pretty much full. Now it’s just a matter of monitoring and maintenance. The most exciting thing to happen recently was a camera wire coming loose at The Club Tanner last week.”
“Oh? You saw Eve then?”
“Yes” I answered drifting off in thought.
“You look pale. You should drink.”
“I always look pale” I said with a muffled laugh. The girl on my lap shifted around and pulled up her sleeve. Baring her forearm she offered it to me.
Cautiously I took it in both hands and ran my nose up the length of it just above the skin. The smell of her and the warmth of skin. It was to much for me. I opened my mouth wide and bit down on her. She didn’t jerk or move. Only a sigh escaped her lips.
I could only drink for a moment. One must be careful not to harm Raven’s lovelies. They enjoy living in the reality of their fantasy. But if one of them were to die, this well would go dry.
After a minute or so I released my hold on her arm and gently licked up my mess. She pressed a linen to her arm and retreated to sit next to Raven. Relaxed into the plush chair I allowed my head to fall back. It is rare for me to partake in warm humans and I relished the moment. Her warmth filled me momentarily. Made my body feel alive again.
My bask was interrupted by the chirp of my phone. I growled and flipped it open to see who could be so rude. The Tanner Club. I wiped my mouth with a napkin and pressed talk, “Sheffield.”
“James, it’s Marcus.” Not the voice I was hoping to hear. “We have had a little trouble down here this evening. If your not tied up maybe you could come take a look around?”
I was still trying to clear my head, like waking from a long slumber. “Does John need me for something?” I asked.
“No. I am asking. It’s of a sensitive nature. I can’t say much other than I need your help.”
“OK. Is Eve alright? Is everyone alright? I’m not at the loft, so it will take me a little time to get down there. I am leaving right now.” Standing I offered a handshake to my host.
“Everyone is OK.” Marcus said. “Just come down and I will explain it to you.” He hung up.
“Well, Raven. Sorry to cut the visit short, but have to run.” I took the girls hand and kissed her gently on top of it. “Thank you ever so much.” This time I took the stairs down to my car.
Pulling up to The Club, I didn’t notice any flashing lights or chaos. Just after 2 am and the last of the drunken patron were making their exit. I parked at the curb, and headed through the doors to find Marcus waiting for me. He grabbed my elbow and walked me back out the door around the side of the building.
Out in the alley behind the club, he nearly started to ramble. “I found her in the gentleman’s restroom. Although what was done to her was far from gentle. She is badly broken. Her bones are broken. It was a mess. She was dead when I got there. Nothing I could do for her.”
He pointed to a large black garbage bag. I was stunned. A human being does not fit in a garbage bag. I carefully pulled at the edge of the bag.
“Urg. Jesus Christ man! Why do I have to deal with this?” I step backwards away from the bag. “Why didn’t you call the cops?”
Marcus stuffed his hands in his back pockets and began to pace. “Because she was drained James. With a body that broken there should have been blood everywhere. There was very little. She was drained before she was tossed around like a rag doll and all those bones were broken.”
I threw my keys at Marcus. “God Damn It! Go get my car from around front and drive it back here.”
My new car. Damn it. I had avoided carrying anything dead in it so far. Waiting for Marcus to come with the car, I started to pace myself. Headlights turned the corner and come down the alley towards me. Marcus pulled to a stop, turned the car off and got out.
“I am going to need another bag, at least” I said, gesturing back towards the front of the building. We walked in silence until we reached the entrance, where I stopped him. “Does anyone else know what happened here tonight?”
“No.” he answered “I started to clean up the restroom, but then just locked it up. Put an out of order sign on it. John never came in tonight and Eve has no cause to go in there.”
The closer we got to the room the more I could smell them. Others. Evil in the air. Blood still whispering on it. I was prepared for a display of carnage when we entered the restroom, but I was taken by surprise. Very clean compared to the evidence in the alley. I closed my eyes and tipped my head to the sky. I inhaled deeply. Yes that is the smell of pure evil.
Marcus was standing nearby waiting. Looking at him, I put my hand on his shoulder, “Tell whoever ‘there was a bar fight in here that needs to be cleaned up.’ Make sure they use chlorine to clean it. If anyone asks about it being closed, just tell them it was for their own safety.”
“Yeah.” he said “Any idea who it was?”
“No. But I am going to do my best to find out. In the mean time I will take care of the girl. I need some more of those trash bags. You will need to go up to John’s office and erase the tape from tonight. Walk me out the back. And when you guys are all done tonight, make sure you walk Eve home. You hear me?”
He nodded at me, “I had no intention of letting her walk home alone.”
I was at my task in the alley. Lining my trunk with garbage bags. Putting her remains in bag after bag, tying each as I went. Trying desperately to keep the evil contained. Lost in my own self pity. Why does this crap happen to me? I am a security specialist. I didn’t sign up for this shit.
Suddenly a faint familiar scent hit my nose and I stopped dead. That evil. Drifting down the alley. They have not traveled far from their murderous scene. If they are not going to come at me, I am going to leave well enough alone. At least until I get this poor girl in my trunk.
As I closed the lid over her, I had the urge to vomit. What kind of monster does this shit to people? But I already knew. I tipped my nose back to the air and searched for them but I got nothing. Except garbage, which is not what I was looking for.
They are close. Marcus is young. He couldn’t possibly deal with more than one. And most assuredly there is more than one. I decided to relieve him of his duty and walked around the front of the club to wait for them. I stood on the wall trying to look cool and flirtation when they emerged from the building to lock up.
Marcus and Eve both looked at me. “Hey there. I was in this part of the neighborhood, thought it might be nice to walk you home.” I stared right into her eyes. She gave a half crooked smile.
Marcus tipped his hat to me, “Thanks man. I’ll catch you guys later.” He left no room for her to argue with me.
“I guess.” she says. We turned to walk up the street away from the club.
I tried not to urge her down the sidewalk, but I had to fight not to push her at the small of her back. “So how was business tonight?” I asked, trying to act natural.
“It was so so. Few good tips. None as good as yours though. What are you doing downtown so late at night?”
“Ah, I was checking on a security alarm not far from here. Thought I would stop by to chat with Marcus.” Trying to make small talk and not get caught up in a lie, constantly smelling the air just to be sure.
Eve lives only 2 blocks away, in an old 3 story brick building. This place must have been here more than a hundred years . It has an old charm about it. As we went up the steps she turned to face me. “Would you care to come up for a drink? It’s the least I can do to thank you for walking me home.”
The business I still must attend to was waiting back at the club. But I couldn’t resist seeing her place, to spend a few more moments with her. “I guess one drink would be alright. But I can’t stay long. I have a busy day ahead of me.”
Inside her heavy wood door, I could tell these apartments have been well used. They were probably grand at one time. Many years and layers of paint have turned it from elegant to charming.
Her place is simple and clean. Obvious she doesn’t spend much time here. No dishes in the sink. Not a lot of girly knick knacks laying around. A few elegantly framed photos on the book shelves. Simple tan curtains hang from the windows, parted and gathered at the sides. Dark gray living room furniture, also simple and clean. Most notable are the large vivid paintings hung on the walls. Cloth stretched over poor wooden frames. But the talent is amazing. Old style pinup girls, in bashful poses. Not at all raunchy.
Following her through to her kitchen we passed a room in complete chaos. I paused for a moment and peaked my head in. “Oh that’s my drawing room” she said. “I make no apologies for the mess. It’s part of the process.”
She continued down the hall to the kitchen. But I was frozen there. Staring into this room. Large easels on two walls. A light table pushed into the corner, french curves hanging above it. A large shelving unit filled with books and magazines. Small clear plastic tubs hold various art supplies. Large cork board with very rough sketches pinned to it. A filing cabinet with tattoo magazines stacked high atop it. Striking black and white drawings tacked to the bare space on the walls. Tons of them. I would have loved to go in and take a closer look, but I decided against it.
She flipped the light off in the kitchen and came towards me with 2 glasses. “Scotch and water… no lime” she said with a grin. This girl thinks she is funny.
“Thank you kindly.” I followed her into her living room. There was a large glass door leading to a balcony that I missed on the first pass through the room.
She set her full wine glass on the end table and flopped herself down on the loveseat. I took my seat in a chair next to the table.
“Why haven’t we moved past acquaintance into friendship yet?” she said matter of factly. “We flirt, but it’s only in passing. Why don’t we see more of you at the club? You and Marcus are friends right?”
She took me by surprise. “Well” I began “yes Marcus and I are friends. I thought you and I were friends too. The club really just isn’t my cup of tea.” If I could, I would probably have blushed right then.
A long pause before she said “Do you have someone special?”
“Not at the moment.”
“Well then why don’t you ask me out?” She looked right at me, waiting.
“I just wasn’t actively seeking anyone to date. I am very busy and you more than have your hands full. When do you have time to date?”
She sipped her wine again. “If it’s important you can find the time.”
“Hmmnn” I pondered ” I shall have to keep that in mind.”
I have a new understanding of this woman now. She is just the kind of lover I would have fallen for in my youth. Maybe in her early thirties. Healthy and warm. Beautiful and sarcastic. She carries herself like a lady. Make no mistake though, she is not taking crap from anyone.
“I’m sorry to drink and run” I drained my glass and set it on the table, “But I really do have important things to do tomorrow.” I stood and she pushed off her seat to walk me out. She opened her door and leaned against it. “Thanks for walking me home.”
Feeling a little brave I said “Anytime beautiful.” I wasted no time heading for the steps, avoiding the awkward pause. She shut her door and I heard the lock click.
My bedroom is dark. So dark it’s nearly depressing. I don’t have much of a choice about that though. Room darkening shades under thick, dark brown, floor length drapes, cover my windows. My walls are painted a nice shade of cappuccino. Not much in the way of decorations. A few wall sconces, just to break up the space a little. I have a simple mahogany wood frame bed that is the focus of the room. Boring but comfortable. I added matching bedside tables, because the bed looked so alone. They are good at holding my phone while it charges. Across from my bed is a flat screen TV mounted to the wall, for those days when sleep doesn’t find me so easily.
When I sleep I dream. Vivid, realistic dreams. The kind that leave you feeling the pain or pleasure even after you’ve woken up. Mostly I dream of the days of my youth. When I was happy, and my whole life lay before me. Sometimes I dream of my present life. The events of recent days or even a little wishful thinking. On a rare occasion, I dream of the horrible things I have seen in my life. I have done some things in my life I am ashamed of. I have been more than self centered in days gone by. Worse I have seen the monstrous things others can do. Terror and carnage and blood. This day finds me waking from one of those dreams.
I lay naked in my bed, recalling. The cool Egyptian cotton sheets give me no comfort today. I have been sweating while I slept. What that poor girl must have gone through last night. Why any creature would feel the need to inflict such damage. I guess we might consider ourselves lucky to have escaped this brand of violence until now. This city doesn’t see this kind of thing. At least not in the last 50 or so years. I would have heard about it.
The cell on the bedside table chirped. I sat up and flipped the phone open, “Hey Marcus what’s up?”
“I don’t mean to bother you. I was just wondering if you had any issue taking care of last nights problem?”
“Hey man, no bother. I took the girl out to Raven’s. I let him deal with it. That sort of thing is not my specialty. Is that what your asking about?”
“Yeah, sort of. I was also wondering if you ran into any company after I left? Should we be on alert for these guys?”
“Well, no I didn’t run into any trouble. I don’t really know if we should be worried about any repeat performances. I let Raven and his crew know everything I know. He didn’t seem too worried about it.”
A pause before he said “Good. I don’t have to work tonight, but I thought I would go hang out down at the club anyway. You know, just to kind of keep an eye on everything. Those people are like family to me now. I would hate for anyone to get hurt.”
“I hear ya man.” thinking to myself that’s a good idea.
Marcus said “You should come have a few drinks with me. We don’t get to hang around doing nothing anymore. We can give Eve a hard time. What do ya say?”
I thought this over. It probably wasn’t a bad I idea to go keep an eye on things myself. “Yeah, that actually sounds like a good idea. What time are you heading out?”
“Oh I hadn’t really pinpointed a time. How does ten sound?”
I looked at my clock, 8:12. “That sounds like a plan. Gives me plenty of time to wake up and shower. I’ll see ya there.” We hung up.
I got up and flipped the TV on with the remote. As I was pulling on my sweatpants, I heard the anchorman talking about a missing girl. I bowed my head and said a prayer for her and her family as he continued reporting. She was from a well known family. 23 years old, attending college at the local University. She was last seen at The Tanner Club around midnight. A reward is being offered for any information.
A wave of sadness soared through me as I headed for the shower.
Since I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be working tonight, I decided to dress more casually. A pair of blue jeans and a light gray button down shirt. I topped it off with a dark gray sports coat, and ran my fingers through my shaggy hair. Good enough.
I poured a short glass of the drink down my throat and headed out the door.
Marcus was already at the bar when I walked in the club. It wasn’t very busy in there so Eve was standing behind the bar chatting with him. They both looked to the door and waved at me. I took my stool at the bar next to Marcus. Eve already had my drink started and slid it over quickly. Hum, here we go with the lime again.
As I stood to toss the lime, I asked “How are you guys doing tonight?”
Marcus said “I’m great man. How about you?”
Eve said nothing. She just looked at me with an evil eye.
“What?” I asked
“I, in case you hadn’t noticed, am not a ‘guy’.” she said.
“Oh I’m sorry.” I apologized. “Didn’t mean to offend the lady. How are you doing darling? Is that better?”
I could see the smile crawling across her face. “Yes, much better. Thank you.” She is so warm and inviting. It’s no wonder she is a great bartender.
At about midnight, Marcus and I had devoured our fair share of drinks. The club had managed to get a little busier. Not a bad crowd for a Sunday night.
I was just relaxing into my buzz when a rancid stench hit my nose. Marcus and I both looked at each other and then around the club. Hard to tell exactly who it was coming from. I decided to get up and make a round, surveying the club and it’s patrons. I made a show of chatting with the ladies as I went.
As I sat back down I leaned into Marcus, “We’ve got a problem. See the two goth looking guys at the table in the right back corner? They aren’t pretending.”
Marcus sat up at attention. “Oh shit. Man we don’t need anymore trouble around here.”
I was already flipping open my phone “Yeah I know. I am calling Raven to see what he suggests. Keep an eye on them while I step outside.”
Just outside of the door he answered “Raven here.”
“Hey it’s James. Remember that problem we had last night? Well they are back at the club tonight.”
“Well are they causing any trouble?”
I started to pace “No. But I really don’t want them to have another opportunity.”
Raven asked “And your sure it’s the same ones who killed that girl?”
“Yeah I am pretty damned sure.”
“I tell you what you should do… just go right up to them, and explain that you don’t want any trouble.”
I shrugged my shoulders as if Raven could see me. “Hey I am not inclined to take care of these sorts of problems. I have never had to deal with this crap in the past. How do we deal with this usually?”
He answered very bluntly “Tell them your from Raven’s family. And if they don’t move along in their travels, they will have to deal with me.”
“Alright,” I told him “I’ll give that a shot. Thanks man. I will let you know how it goes.” We hung up.
I walked around outside of the club convincing myself. I can do this…without killing them. Surely they must have an understanding of social order. I was fairly sure of myself when I walked back in.
I didn’t go and tell Marcus what Raven had said. Instead, I pulled a chair right up to their table and introduced myself. “Good evening gentlemen. My name is James Sheffield.” Nothing from them. I cleared my throat, “I have a personal stake in this establishment and this city for that matter. I do not appreciate what was done here last night, and neither does Raven. You know who Raven is don’t you?”
The two strangers looked at each other and then both shook their heads no.
Hmmm. I thought that was unlikely. “He is the oldest member in this city. He along with the rest of us adhere to a strict code of conduct.”
Still neither of them said anything, so I continued. “I am not going to accuse you of breaking that code. Rather I am going to suggest that you vacate the city in a timely manner. Last nights problem has been dealt with, and we don’t want anymore trouble.”
The shorter of the two men bared his teeth and hissed. Finally a response, if you can call it that. I sat back in the chair and folded my arms over my chest. “I hear your argument” I said “but that does change this scenario. Raven and his family requested that I pass this information on to you.”
Without a word, they both stood up and walked hastily out of the club. After the door closed behind them, I collected their glasses and returned to the bar.
“Here” I handed the glasses to Eve, “they won’t be needing these anymore.”
Marcus had been watching the whole thing and when Eve went to deposit the used glasses he said “That was easy. What did you say to them?”
“Don’t worry about the details. I think they got the message, and that’s all that matters.”
At closing time Marcus and I were still rather enjoying ourselves. I asked Eve “Babe, I don’t think we are done here. What are the chances we can stay after close?”
“I don’t mind, but I am not sure how John would feel about it.”
Marcus started in on her “C’mon. James and I never get to relax and goof off. Please?”
“I am sure John won’t have a problem with it. As long as the club is closed up. Please?” I said, trying hard to flash my baby blue puppy dog eyes at her.
She ran her fingers through the top of her hair. “Alright BUT… I do have to get into the studio at some point tomorrow, so I am not leaving here as the sun comes up. AND… you two have to help me get this mess cleaned up.”
Marcus and I both said “Deal!”
I had a good buzz as I trotted around the club picking up abandoned glasses and full ashtrays. Eve locked up after the rest of the staff left and headed to the kitchen.
When she emerged she was holding a plate of french fries in one hand and a bottle of ketchup in the other. “What?” she said “I’m hungry. A girls gotta eat ya know.” She set the plate and bottle down, reached into her back pocket and pulled out a deck of cards. “Anyone up for a game?”
I grinned “Strip poker?” Marcus bowed his head. He knew the wrath was coming. So did I, but I couldn’t help myself.
“Hell No, you pervert.” She said “What kind of girl do you think I am?” She looked only slightly miffed. “I was thinking more along the lines of spades, something like that.”
Marcus took the cards from her, “I’ll deal” he said. I grabbed the bottle of scotch and we all made our way to a table.
We were a half hour into getting our asses handed to us by the french fry eating, hot bartender, when I drained the last glass of scotch from the bottle. “Oh no.” I said “Looks like we may need a new bottle.”
“Your tab is already approaching two hundred for the night.” Eve said. “Plus I would have to go all the way into the storage to get one.”
I pulled 3 one hundred dollar bills from their clip and slid them over to her. “Please? We helped you clean up and everything.” We were both grinning at her.
“Oh good grief. Where do you guys put it all? You should be falling over by now.” she said “Lucky for you, I have to take my plate back to the kitchen anyway.” And she retreated.
Two hours later Eve looked at her watch. “Holy shit guys. It’s almost 5 am. As much fun as this has been, I really must insist that we wrap it up.”
“No kidding?” Marcus said. But we had already started to clean up.
A few minutes later, as Eve was locking the door behind us, I said, “Marcus I’ll give you a ride. Just let me walk Eve home first. It will only take a minute.” I gave him my keys. “Wait for me in the car will ya?”
With Marcus firmly planted in the passenger seat we headed for her building. “Sorry I kept you out so late.” I said “I hope you don’t have to be in the studio to early?”
“Nah” she answered “I just have to drop off a drawing for a customer that’s coming in on Tuesday. No biggie.”
We were about half way there. I guess I was really wrapped up in being around her. Or maybe I really did have to much to drink. Either way I was intoxicated. In her, in scotch, who knows.
We passed one of the side streets and I caught the scent but it was too late. I was already being dragged down to the dead end. Two strong arms around my upper body, pulling me backwards. Moving fast. I was spun around and slammed into a brick wall.
I stumbled to my feet and turned to face my attacker. The first thing I saw was one of the freaks that I had spoken with earlier at the club. I took a step back and turned my head, looking down to the street where I came from. That’s when I saw the other guy. Holding Eve, with his hand over her mouth. She was ghost white with a terrified look in her eyes.
“You let her go!” I growled “She has nothing to do with this!”
He stuck his tongue out and licked the side of her face. She tried to scream and fight back. My stomach turned. I could feel it coming. “Sure thing” he said with a chuckle as he threw her back to the other side of the street. She landed with a thud against a building.
“Eve” I cried out to her “RUN!” But she didn’t move.
That was it for me. I bared my teeth and dove into her attacker. With all my strength I picked him up off the ground and aimed to throw him down. I felt company on my back. Claws sinking into my skin. He grabbed my chin and pulled my head back. I dropped the other guy, spun around and crashed backwards into the wall. He fell off and the other was already up and coming at me.
I leaped up to a fire escape. One of them jumped to follow. I dropped down and caught him in mid air. We hurled to the ground like a tornado. I found myself laying on top of him when the other grabbed me up. “We don’t follow Raven’s law” He hissed.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Eve running across the street with a gun drawn, pointed right at us. “No Eve” I pleaded “Don’t! Run!” She squeezed off a couple of rounds hitting the tall one in the back. He released me and in one swift move, turned, planted his hand on her chest and pushed her up and back across the street. “Bitch” he growled.
Before he turned back to me I grabbed the back of his head and chin and twisted, snapping it completely. I dropped him to the road.
I started to run across the street towards where Eve lay in a pile. I felt a sharp blade graze my back. I jumped, turned and landed on him. I saw Marcus running down the street towards us. The guy I was wrestling with did too. He broke free and ran up and over the side of a building.
As Marcus reached me I fell to the ground. “Holy fucking…” he started
“Eve” I said pointing across the street “Help her. Call an ambulance. No take her to the hospital yourself. Fuck I don’t know what to do.”
I knew I wasn’t fatally wounded, but I was hurt pretty bad. I pulled my cell from my pocket and dialed Raven. I explained the events to him and he said he was sending someone to take care of it. He told me to leave the dead on a nearby roof top and get Eve to a hospital.
I relayed his instructions to Marcus, and asked him to take her. I managed to get the guy up onto the roof. I don’t know how Raven deals with these things. I hope he won’t think me tacky for draining this guy, but I really needed it right then. I ripped into his throat and drank my fill.
Wiping my face on my coat sleeve, I realized the sun would be making it’s appearance soon and I needed to get home. I pulled my coat closed over the mess on my shirt and quickly walked to my car.
I was almost home when my phone rang. “Yeah” I answered
“James. I just got Eve into emergency. They took her back right away. Man… she never woke up. I told the nurse that we work together, and she was attacked on her way home. I never mentioned you. I hope that was right.”
“Yeah it’s fine” I said “Raven will take care of it, and we don’t need any more questions. Marcus, you need to get home. Give them your number so they can call you if anything changes and get out of there.”
“No. I can stay here with her. Daylight can’t reach me here. If she wakes up I want her to see a familiar face. I’ll be alright.”
I thought for a moment. “That’s very good of you Marcus. I appreciate it. I’ll be at the loft. Call me if you need me.”
We were hanging up as I was stumbling through my door. I dropped my keys on the table and locked the door behind me. Stripping clothes off I let them drop to the floor as I made my way to my bedroom. My sheets really needed to be changed, being covered in sweat and all. But I didn’t care. I fell into the bed naked and pulled the sheet up over my head. I passed out instantly.
It seemed as though only a few moments had passed when I heard my phone in the other room. I looked at the clock, 10 am. I grudgingly dragged myself from my bed and went to find the phone. I flipped it open, Marcus. I answered “Hey man. Any news?”
“Yeah. She is awake. A little fuzzy with a big headache. She keeps asking for you. I told her you weren’t hurt that bad and you went home to sleep it off. She is certain you should be in the hospital though.”
“I feel like I should be in the hospital too. I’ll be fine though. I am glad she is awake. What did the Doctor say?”
“He said she has a moderate concussion. Some scrapes and some nasty bruises. He said she will be fine with a little rest. They will probably release her tomorrow morning, if her CT is clear.”
“That’s great Marcus. Can I talk to her?”
“She has a room full of visitors right now. Did you know Eve used to be a uniformed police officer?”
“What?” I said. Trying to think back. “I don’t think she ever mentioned that.”
“Yeah well I didn’t know either. Then all these uniforms started showing up to see her. Said they heard about the attack at the station. She didn’t have much of a choice but to explain it to me then.”
Very interesting, I thought. “That girl has done some living. Alright then, tell her I will stop by to see her this evening.”
“Will do” he said
“Oh… and Marcus, thanks for everything man. I really owe you one.”
“No worries. I told you these guys are like family to me now. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
I was already back in my bed when we hung up. Back to my slumber.
Seven hours later my phone was ringing again. “Hey Marcus, what’s up?”
“Things are going good down here. Eve is feeling much better. All her company has departed for now. She wants to know if your still coming? And if so could you bring her a cheese steak from the greasy spoon on 5th street?”
“Wow, she really is feeling better. I’m so glad to hear that. Tell her I am jumping in the shower and I will be on my way, food in hand.”
I walked into her room and set the bag on the bedside table. Marcus looked exhausted. “Feeling a little hungover still?” I asked him.
“Nah, just a little tired.”
Eve picked up the bag and was peeking inside. “Scootch over a little.” I said to her. She slid over to one side of the bed and I sat next to her. I put an arm around her, pulled her into me and kissed the top of her head. “How are you feelin’ babe?”
“Oh me? I’m just fine now. Starving, but other than that. What about you? Those 2 guys were beating the crap out of you.” She looked over at me, stuffing a french fry in her mouth.
“Hey let us not forget, I wasn’t the one who got knocked out.” I said
Marcus chuckled “He’s gotcha there.”
Between bites she said “Yeah, I guess. Still it looked pretty bad. Are you sure your OK?”
“I’m fine. A few scrapes, sore back, but I’ll live.” I was lying of course. Nothing was sore on me anymore. I really was just fine, aside from my anger.
“Well if that’s the way you want to be about it.” She sat up more and pulled the sandwich out of the bag, putting it on her lap. As she leaned in to take a bite I caught a glimpse of what looked like a large tattoo on her back. I pulled at the edge of her gown to get a closer look. She didn’t seem to mind. She didn’t even stop eating. A large, beautiful floral tattoo. Starting at her shoulder and ending God knows where, I couldn’t see down that far. It didn’t look quite finished. There were still flowers without color, just an outline. I didn’t say anything about it and neither did she.
“So, Marcus tells me you used to be a cop. Guess that would explain the gun you apparently carry?”
“Yeah, so? That seems like a lifetime ago. I still have friends in the department though.”
“You are a very complex lady Miss Eve. Do you know that?”
“Yep.” She looked at me and smiled “And mysterious and intriguing too.”
After leaving the hospital Marcus and I drove straight to Raven’s. There were serious issues that needed to be discussed in person. As we pulled into the drive Marcus commented, “I never can get over this place. It’s just so, what’s the words, lavish? How does he afford it?”
“Raven comes from old money my friend. He has owned this house outright for many years. It’s only one of a couple of his properties. Raven’s liquid assets come from investments as far as I know.”
“I would love to live like this. But imagine the upkeep.”
We walked into the house to find Raven waiting for us in the formal living room. He began, “My guys brought your body back this morning. I didn’t recognize him. Do you know who he was?”
“No” I answered “but we have a bigger problem. There is still one of them out there. And, that’s only if they aren’t part of some larger clan.”
Marcus sat on one of the elegant couches and just listened as Raven went on. “I haven’t heard of any new members or families moving into the city recently. I think it’s safe to assume they are rouge.” He paused. “Did anyone see you last night? Does Eve know?”
That thought had totally escaped me. I looked at Marcus, “I don’t know. Marcus did she say anything while you were with her today?”
Marcus sat up straight. “No. She was still foggy. But I assume if she knew it would have been the first thing she said.”
I looked back to Raven. “I am with Marcus on this one. Eve is not the type to hold her tongue. If she saw something she would have asked about it right then.”
“Alright” he said “we will operate under the assumption that she doesn’t know. Do we know who the target of the attack was?”
“Yeah” I said “Me. I guess I really pissed them off when I told them to pack their bags. They didn’t seem to care that I dropped your name. They claimed not to know who you were. But I can’t imagine there is anyone in this city who hasn’t heard of you. One of them actually said ‘We don’t follow Raven’s law’.”
Raven pressed both of his hands to the top of his head. “I choose to live here, because there is peace here. I don’t care to get into family feuds or clean up after rogues. That being said, I am the oldest so it falls on me.”
“I am here to help.” I chimed in. “Whatever you need me to do. I can’t handle innocent people being slaughtered. And after last nights beating I am out for blood.”
Raven asked “Can you convince Mr. Tanner to implement full time door men?”
“I’m sure that won’t be a problem, after Eve being hurt. I know he will do whatever it takes to insure their safety.”
“I have a couple of guys who will fit the bill.” Raven said “I’ll send them over to meet you at the club tomorrow night. In the mean time I suggest you two keep your eyes on the place. I don’t know why they picked The Tanner Club but we need to stay on top of it.”
“I think we were planning on heading out there when we leave.” I looked at Marcus. He nodded his approval.
“I will swirl about the city tonight and see if I can get any information. Someone has to know something. And if they want to keep their heads, they will tell me.”
Marcus stood up and headed for the door.
“Call me when you know something?” I said to Raven. “Tell your boys to be down at the club tomorrow around 7pm.”
“That’s fine. Yes I will call you as soon as I hear anything.”
By 2:30 am I was back at the loft. John had wholeheartedly agreed to the extra security. He also decided to lock up a little early and asked that I make sure everyone got out of there in one piece. Marcus was exhausted by closing and went straight home. All the other staff members were seen off safely before I left.
I poured myself a tall glass of my favorite libation. A half and half of dark Merlot and the drink. Then I settled in front of my computer to do some work. Others call it snooping, but in my case, I can get away with calling it work.
A couple hours of relentless searching turned up nothing. I even tried some of my internet buddies, and they had nothing of value either. I doubted Raven would call until tomorrow, so I decided to turn in.
I was heading to the club to meet Raven’s guys when he called. “Hey Raven, what’s the word?”
“It’s not good” he said “We have a sire turning people for a profit.”
“What? Who in their right mind…?”
“That part, I haven’t figured out yet. Apparently he or she isn’t local, but somewhere in the States. They have decided to capitalize on the mortal fantasy of living on the dark side. The problem is, I don’t think even they could anticipate the raging inferno they started.”
“What do you mean?”
“All business’ will encounter someone trying to undercut them. The newbies are turning their friends for free. With no mentors, they are becoming a problem in a couple of major cities around the country.”
“Holy shit!” I was stunned. Who could be so careless? How does one not see the consequences of this kind of thing? “What do we do about it?” I asked.
“From what I understand this problem is fairly new. I have called on some of the hierarchy to meet with me. They should all be arriving within the next 48 hours. We will decide what to do about this problem.”
“What do you need from me?”
“At this point nothing. We have put the word into our community. Everyone is on alert. If you hear of any incidences that require my attention, please do let me know. Otherwise, if I need your help, I’ll let you know.”
“Alright” I was hesitant to stay out of it. But it’s really not my field of expertise. “Call me if you need me. I’ll be here for whatever you need.”
I was off the hook for now. I could concentrate on looking after Eve, and keeping an eye on all my clients assets.
I met with Raven’s guys and got them settled in. Two strong members of our community. I felt much better having them around the club.
With that business taken care of I decided to check in on Eve. I could see the lights on up in her apartment. I didn’t see any movement through the windows though. I debated with myself, whether or not to go up. What if she was asleep? What if she had a flashback and suddenly recalled all the details of Sunday night?
My curiosity won, and I found myself standing in front of her door knocking. I waited a moment but she did not answer. I decided not to knock again. Instead I went to her fire escape. I didn’t want to be a voyeur, I just wanted to make sure she was merely sleeping.
I cautiously peeked into her living room. No Eve snoozing on the couch. I went around to her studio window only to find it dark, less the light coming from the hallway. Artists are an odd bunch, but I don’t think they draw in the dark. The next window over was her bedroom. With the same style curtains as the rest of the apartment, plus a sheer panel over the entire window.
Through the cream panel I could see her laying face down in her bed. The room was dimly lit by the light coming from the hall. She looked peaceful and calm, with her arms wrapped around a pillow. A sheet lay across the middle of her body, her thick legs sticking out of the bottom. Her entire back was exposed and I could see, for the first time, the full scale of her tattoo. A delicate stream of cherry blossoms. Starting at her left shoulder, slinking across her back and curling around to her right hip. Intricate green vines gave the large piece a background.
I stood for a long moment taking in the sight of her. Such beauty and grace, even while she slept. Feeling as though she was safe I retreated for home.
Eve and I are dancing around an empty room. Her low cut backless dress showcasing that beautiful tattoo. Bare feet glide effortlessly across the tiled floor. Large tall columns frame grand doorways into the ballroom.
Her movements are erotic and I am intensely excited. Our bodies are pressed tightly together and I am certain she can feel my intentions. My hand softly entwined in those long dark curls. “Eve, how I have wanted this for so long.” She gives a gently sigh in anticipation.
Her lips are full and moist. Barely parted and I can’t take my eyes off of them. “May I kiss you Eve?” She tilts her head slightly and eases her mouth towards mine. I bend my head down to meet her lips.
From gentle to feverish our kissing escalates. I can’t get close enough. Pulling her head in hard. My hand finds her breast covered in the cool fabric of her dress. Her nipple is hard. Cupping my hand around the fullness I massage and manipulate it. The sound of her moaning is delightful.
Leaving her breast I trace my way down her hip. Back and down along her ass. Tightening my grip in her hair. Hooking my hand on the back of her thigh I pull her leg up. She releases a groan when I press into her.
Just off the floor, we are turning in slow circles. I am breathing hard into her. Intoxicated by her scent. She breaks our kiss to look down and gasps at the realization that we are floating. I see her neck, her collar bone, begging to be kiss.
She looks up at my eyes and screams. Tries to push away. Struggling to break free. I pull her hair and tilt her chin up. Mouth open, teeth drawn, I bite down hard under her jaw bone. Blood gushing into my throat.
In a panic I sat straight up and roared. Panting, trying to catch my breath. A dream, or nightmare. Not real. But so lifelike I could taste her blood on my tongue.
BANG BANG BANG My recovery was interrupted my someone pounding on my door. Maybe that’s what woke me. BANG BANG BANG BANG I looked at the clock, almost 9 pm.
I threw my sheet off, jumped up and pulled my sweats on. With all that has happened in recent days, there was no telling what the urgency was about.
When I opened the door I was shocked to see Eve standing there. Marcus was right behind her. He had a helpless look on his face. “She said she tried to call, but you didn’t answer.”
Eve cut him off “I need to talk to you. Now!”
A little confused, I said “Well hello to you too. Come right in.” She pushed past me into my living room. Marcus shuffled in behind her.
“What’s this about?” I asked “Is everything OK?” Marcus shrugged his shoulders and took a seat on the couch.
“No” she began “everything is not OK. Can we talk alone?” She stared right at me. Her eyes were dark and cloudy.
“Yeah, um” I was trying to think “follow me.”
I lead her back to my bedroom, thankful that the housekeeping service had visited recently. I wasn’t expecting company, especially Eve. I walked over to my bedside table to retrieve my phone. As I flipped it open to see her missed calls I heard her shut the door behind us. I turned to look at her, she was hovering close to the door.
“Sorry I missed your call. What’s up babe?”
“Don’t babe me. I had a nightmare last night. Only it didn’t seem so much like a nightmare when I woke up. More like a memory.” She paused and shifted back and forth. “I saw you kill that guy in the alley. I saw you snap his neck.”
I was doing my best to look surprised and confused. I felt vulnerable wearing nothing but a pair of sweatpants. I was definitely not prepared for this conversation.
“I saw your face.” she continued “And I saw the other mans face. The one I shot. I am certain I shot him.”
“What do you mean?” I asked with a baffled tone.
“I mean…” she hesitated. “I mean you didn’t look like yourself. You didn’t look human and neither did he.” With that she pressed her back to the wall and put her hand on the door knob.
“Um, if I didn’t look human what exactly did I look like then?” I was trying to take on a playful demeanor.
She released the knob and rubbed her forehead. I could see that she was starting to feel foolish. “I know how this is going to sound… I would swear you were… were… a … Shit James, I don’t know. I just have never seen anything like that. How can I compare you to something I know doesn’t exist? If I had to make a guess, if my life depended on it, I would say….” I looked at her and raised one eye brow, waiting. “Vampire” she spat out. As soon as the word left her mouth she began to blush. It was then that I knew she was not here to confront me. She had come for me to assure her that it was all in her head.
I cautiously walked towards her. “Oh honey, maybe that concussion was worse than we thought. Or maybe your having a post traumatic episode.” I put my hands on her shoulders and tried to comfort her.
She looked up at me relieved. “Just tell me your not a vampire or anything else of the that nature.”
I tipped her chin up and said “I think we need to get you back to the doctor, just to double check.” I chuckled softly “I would hate for anything to be wrong with that pretty little head of yours.”
I let go of her and opened the door. She paused in the doorway and put her hand on my chest. “OK. So no one needs to know about this, right?”
“Don’t worry about it babe. So long as you go see the doctor tomorrow, it will be our secret. Now if you don’t mind, I would like to get dressed.” She left my bedroom and I shut the door behind her.
I let out a long sigh. I don’t make a habit of lying to peoples faces. Technically I hadn’t lied to Eve. I just led her to believe what she wanted to.
Dressed in a pair of jeans and a button down shirt I went to join my guests in the living room. “Well since we are all here, who wants to go have a drink?”
Marcus spoke up first “I’m down. Where did you have in mind?”
“Somewhere other than The Tanner Club. Eve needs to relax. There is this great little jazz bar uptown that I love.”
“I don’t know” Eve said “I still have to run by the studio to drop off some drawings. Plus I think I should make it an early night. I’m still feeling a little beat up.”
“We can run you by the studio on the way. Come on? It’s an easy going place. Very relaxing. We can just go for a little while, and then I will take you home. Plus they serve up a mean porterhouse. I’m buying.”
“Alright” she relented. “I could go for a steak and a glass of wine right about now. But we have to stop at my place to pick up my drawings first. Am I dressed for this place?”
I looked her over. Dark colored blue jeans, red peasant top and sandals. “Yep” I answered “It’s casual. Give me a few minutes to get ready and check my email, then we’ll head out.”
Marcus got up and followed me to my office. “She made me do it.” he stated “She made me bring her over here. She was frantic, but she wouldn’t tell me what it was about.”
I sat behind my desk and turned on the monitor. “It’s fine man. What’s that you say? No worries? Although I pictured having Eve in my bedroom as being a lot more erotic than that.”
Marcus laughed “What was all that about anyway?”
“Oh nothing.” I turned my tone to a whisper “She thought she saw me as a vampire. But I convinced her it was all in her head.”
“Nothing to worry about. I can assure you.”
When we returned to the living room Eve was standing near my desk looking over it’s contents. She looked up flushed, then backed away.
“Ready to go?” I asked
At the jazz bar I sat across from her. Watching her sip her wine while we waited for her dinner to arrive. Her eyes were on the stage watching the band. The music slow and soulful. This was the first moment I had to process my dream. Looking at her it was easy to escape back into it. The feeling that she wanted me too.
The server returned and sat Eve’s dish in front of her. “Are you sure I can’t get you guys anything?” he asked.
Marcus and I both said “No”
“OK. Anything else you need ma’am?”
“No thank you. Everything looks great.” She answered
Eve turned her attention to her meal, while Marcus and I focused on the band. The music really was delightful. It reminded me of the time I passed through Louisiana. You can’t make a visit there with out a stop in New Orleans. The city wasn’t quite as dirty then, more a mix of rustic and grand. And the music, those sounds could move your soul.
My eyes wandered back to Eve. Taking polite and delicate bites of her food. She looked up at me and dabbed her mouth with a napkin. “It really is very good. Do you want a bite?”
“Oh, it looks wonderful. But I had a big dinner. Thank you anyway.” She was offering to share her food with me. We were moving further and further away from acquaintances. That’s a dangerous place for us, and I decided to put a little distance between us.
“Suit yourself. This place is great. I have lived here all my life and I’ve never heard of it. How have I never heard of this place?”
I didn’t have an answer for her. No matter. We were all absorbed in the peaceful atmosphere.
I walked her to the door when we dropped her off. “Thanks for a great evening James. I think I really needed that.” Sliding her key into the lock.
“Anytime Eve. Hey listen, I really do want you to call the doctor in the morning. You sort of have me worried with your hallucinations.”
“I’m a big girl James. I was planning on it. Thanks for walking me up too.”
“Your welcome.” I kissed her on the top of her head. “Sleep good. I’ll see you later.” I started to walk away.
“Good night” she called after me.
Friday evening Raven telephoned to let me know about the meeting.
“We have decided to search the infested cities in a grid. As much as it pains me we can’t let rouges run free. We are going to try to use them to figure out who the original sire is.”
“And when they are found?” I asked
“He or she will be dealt with. In the old fashion manner. And the newbies will probably meet the same fate. Depending on how many there are and their dispositions. But it’s a general consensus that we don’t have the resources to absorb them into our community.”
“Alright. How can I help?”
“I would like you to try and track down the other one from the alley. You know who your looking for. If you find him, bring him back here to me.”
“I can do that. Might take me a couple of days, but I’ll get right on it.”
“Oh and keep your eyes open and an ear to the ground for any others. This sweep will only work if it’s complete and total.”
Poor souls. They didn’t even have a clue what they signed up for. That they must pay for sins other than their own. They cursed themselves by choosing eternity. The sire cursed them by granting it. He signed their death warrants.
I found myself driving though the darkened city, feeling a sense of urgency. This rouge was recently injured. And though I have not heard of any carnage this week, I am certain it’s coming. He will need to feed soon. He will take an innocent human. He won’t have a choice because he knows no other way. I was hoping to catch up with him before it’s too late.
I headed towards the most distressed part of the city. Every town has it’s homeless people. Hidden away in the dark areas along side the whores and drug dealers. Ours are located in and around Slaitor Street. If this rouge had any common sense I might find him here.
I drove through the streets for a bit and decided I might do better on foot. I locked up the car and walked towards the bridge. Slaitor Street’s residents may be homeless but that doesn’t mean they are stupid. For a couple of bucks they will tell you everything they know.
I started asking the locals if they had seen any new visitors around fitting my rouges description. I got some varied answers; maybe, no, why do you want to know? I came across an old man sitting on a make shift bench of milk crates. He was not yet intoxicated, if he was even intending on it. He was dirty and worn out, but clear in his head.
“Yeah, I am pretty sure I saw him around here. Maybe last night, or the night before.”
I pulled a twenty out of my pocket and handed it to him. He quickly shoved it in his front pant pocket. “Matter of fact, now that I think about it, he was hanging around night before last.” he said
“Got any idea what he might have been doin’ down here?”
“Well now I can’t say what the others might have spoken to him about. But when I spoke with him, he was real interested in blood donations.”
“What do you mean by blood donations?” I asked
“You know, we can scrape together a couple of bucks by donating our blood at a blood bank. Well some of us can. They don’t take drug users or any other sort of infestation, if you know what I’m gettin’ at.”
“Oh right, I gotcha. What did you tell him?”
“I told him ’bout the place where I go to donate. Over on South Broad. He seemed kinda grumpy, but aren’t we all. He did say ‘thank you’ though.”
I pulled another twenty and my business card out of my pocket and handed them to him. “If you think of anything else, please give me a call. I promise to make it worth your while.”
“Hey man, no problem. Thanks.”
“No, thank you. You have been a tremendous help.”
I was back in my car and headed for South Broad. Maybe this guy wasn’t as dumb as I thought. If he’s plotting on robbing a blood bank as opposed to a fresh kill, it’s a step up for him. If that’s the plan, he’s still working on it, as I haven’t heard of any blood thefts lately. Surely that’s something they would report on the news.
Once on Broad, I was back on foot. Checking the place over and trying to sniff my rouge out. Seems as though they have pretty good security measures in place. Cameras at the entrances of the building. Around back nothing seemed out of place.
There were a couple of bio-hazard boxes next to the back door. The closer I got to them, the stronger the scent got. He had definitely been here, but there was no sign of him now. I picked up one of the boxes and shook it. Empty. A peek in the dumpster revealed the empty blood collection bags.
I flipped open my phone and dialed Raven.
“Hi. I am at the blood bank on South Broad. The rouge has been here, but he’s gone now. He is smarter than we gave him credit for.”
“Oh? How’s that?”
“Apparently he has stopped killing. I thought he was going to rob the donation center. He has opted instead to take the discarded blood donations that get left for overnight pick up.”
“Smart. But someone is going to catch on eventually.”
“Yeah, that’s why I am going to come back at sundown tomorrow to try and catch up with him.”
“Good thinking. Let me know how it goes.”
“Will do. Talk to ya later.”
The next evening I doused myself in cologne before heading out to South Broad. I didn’t want him to pick up my scent. I came prepared to capture him, with thick rope and a dark sheet in my passenger seat, but I had decided not to take him right there. I figured it was probably a good idea to follow him and see where he goes. Maybe, if there were others, he would lead me to them. I parked the car as far away from the blood banks back door as I could without loosing my view of the alley.
I had been there for almost 2 hours before there was any movement in the alley. A lone silhouette came strolling down the alley. I sort of figured he would be driving but I didn’t see a car.
I waited for him to finish his business and dump the empty bags into the dumpster. He calmly walked back in the direction he had come from. He was more than a block away when I started the car and drove out onto the street parallel to the alley. He came from between two buildings, got into a car parked at the curb and drove off.
I tailed him from afar for what seemed like hours. He stopped by a night club, and a gas station before parking at an apartment building around midnight. Once he was in the building I saw a light come on in a first floor unit. I parked and waited for a few minutes, watching the windows.
I decided to take a closer look. Creeping around the side of the building I could see into the first floor windows. Yep that was definitely his place. If it wasn’t he was sure doing a good job of making himself at home. He was in the living room watching TV. I was also pretty sure he was alone. So I moved my car behind his building to make my capture.
When you live in cheap apartments downtown you get what you pay for. This building was old. Luckily for me the windows were original and easy to open with a pocket knife. I slipped into a bedroom without a sound and pulled the curtain across the open window.
Peeking down the hall I could see him still firmly planted in front of the television.
As quickly and quietly as I could, I moved up behind him. I snatched him up from behind in a bear hug and drug him off the couch, back into the bedroom. He was trying to put up a fight, but he was still new at this game.
I put my hand over his mouth, tilting his head to the side, and drained him to almost with in an inch of his life. When I released my grip I dropped him on his bed and said “Raven has requested to see you son. So we are going for a little trip.”
He just looked at me through glazed eyes. He didn’t have the strength to fight or run.
With the rouge tucked securely in the trunk I was headed for Raven’s. When we pulled up I dialed him.
“James. Any luck?”
“Yep, like taking candy from a baby. I have a special delivery for you. I’m out front.”
Raven opened the front door and snapped his phone closed. I got out and came around to meet him on the porch.
“I drained him pretty good. So if your planning on keeping him as a pet, he’ll need to eat.”
“No plans for any new pets. He’s in the trunk?”
“Yep.” I pushed the release button on my key chain and the trunk popped open.
Raven dialed his phone, told someone to come remove the rouge then flipped it closed again.
“My boys will get this out of your way. Care for a drink?”
“Yeah, sure. What have you got?”
“Nothing fresh. With all I am handling now, I have told my lovelies to stay away for the time being.”
When two men appeared on the front porch, Raven pointed them to my trunk and we went into the kitchen to have our drink.
I explained to Raven that I had waited to see if there were any others hanging around. “I got the feeling he was on his own.”
“That’s good. Hopefully we caught this thing before it got out of hand.”
“I’m thinking we did. What are you going to do with him?”
“He will be interrogated and then disposed of tonight.”
Raven has a way of dealing with this sort of mess that I don’t want any details on. I drained my glass and sat it in the sink.
“I am going to take off. Call me if you need anything else.”
“I think we can handle it from here James, thank you.”
I figured they would be just about finished with closing so I stopped by The Tanner Club on my way home. As I got out of my car, one of the door men was walking a waitress to her car. I waited for him to return and we walked in together. The lights were on and everyone was busy finishing up for the night.
Eve’s face lit up when she saw me. Actually I was surprised to see her working. But then I figured she was an unstoppable force, so why wouldn’t she be here?
I walked up to the bar where she was stacking glasses in a rack. “Hey babe, I need to have a word with Marcus real quick, OK?”
“Yeah, he is over at his booth.” she pointed in his direction.
I stepped up into his booth and leaned into his ear. “Problem all taken care of. I just got back from dropping the other guy at Raven’s”
“Well shit. That didn’t take any time at all. Glad to hear it’s all done with.”
“We don’t know for sure it’s all done with. Don’t let your guard down yet. Matter of fact, don’t let your guard down ever.”
“I hear ya man.”
“Alright, that’s all I wanted to tell ya. We’ll catch up later.”
Back at the bar Eve was look especially exhausted. “You look tired babe. How about I drive you home tonight?” She did not protest.
When we pulled up to her building, she asked “Are you coming up?”
Oh what the hell “Sure. Why not?”
As we were walking through her front door she said “I have a gift for you.”
“Oh?” I asked
She kicked off her shoes and pulled off the button down shirt revealing the white tank top underneath. “Do you want something to drink?”
“I’ll have a glass of wine if it’s available.”
She returned from the kitchen with two glasses and handed one to me. “Have a seat” she said “I’ll be right back.”
I could hear her down the hall in her bedroom. It sounded like she was changing her clothes. Then she went into her drawing room and started talking to me. “When I was at your place the other day I noticed your walls looked pretty bare. And you know me, any excuse I can find to paint. Plus I have been cooped up here trying to recover. I needed something to do.”
She came into the living room holding a large canvas. “So this is for you.” She turned it around to reveal a beautiful woman painted in a most tastefully seductive pose. “What do you think?”
“Eve, that is stunning.” I stood up and took the canvas from her. I held it at arms length, and I really was speechless. The woman was sitting on an antique wing back chair, with a dark marbled background. One leg tucked under her, the other bent up so that her knee met her shoulder. One could tell she was nude, but there was a sheet strategically wrapped around her. It looked to me as though she had just finished making love.
“Whatever did I do to deserve this?”
“Just you being you. Being nice to me. Plus your place is so sterile and masculine looking. I thought she would make a nice addition.”
“I think your right. Thank you so much.” I set the painting by the door. Eve was leaning against the wall, in cotton sleep pants and her white tank top, watching me. I walked over and kissed her cheek. I turned my head to look at it again. “She is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen.”
I could hear Eve’s heart racing. When I looked back at her, she reached both of her hands out and held my face. She looked at my eyes for only a moment and then she kissed my lips. A short gentle kiss. She watched me for another moment, with my face still in my hands, before she kissed me again. Much harder, full of passion and wanting.
Her hands fell onto my chest as she started to pull away. I snaked my fingers through her hair to the back of her neck pulling her back to my lips. Among everything else, I am still a man and once my fire is lit, it’s hard to break away from it.
She met my kiss with eagerness. Slinging one arm around my neck, the other on my hip. I found my back to the wall and Eve breathing heavily into me. I slid my hand under the round of her ass and pulled her into me so that her legs were on either side of my thigh. I was growing dangerously aroused by the taste of her mouth and the smell of her skin.
Breaking our kiss I whispered into her ear “I can’t do this.”
She pushed away from me embarrassed. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pull you into something you don’t want.” she said
“Oh Eve, it’s not like that. You don’t understand. I am just not capable of this sort of thing.” I brushed her hair back and tucked it behind her ear.
“What sort of thing is this?” she questioned. There was a look about her. She was flushed. I couldn’t tell if it was embarrassment, anger or pain.
“The sort of thing that leads to you getting hurt. The last thing I want is for you to hurt, ever. I should go.”
“Yeah, I think maybe you should.”
“Please don’t be angry with me Eve.”
“I’m not angry. Maybe a little frustrated and confused, but not angry.”
I didn’t believe her. “Alright then. I’ll be around if you need me.”
Tuesday evening I awoke with a start…again. I had been dreaming about Eve for days. Every time I closed my eyes, she was all I could see. It’s worse when I slept, dreaming of making love to her. These latest chapters didn’t end in the sort of violence I previously envisioned. And when I wake I am left with this crushing feeling in my chest. A physical pain from knowing I can’t have her.
Laying in my bed, I flipped on my TV, watching it mindlessly. Trying to divert my thoughts. Raven had not contacted me. No news from Marcus. Eve hadn’t called either. Not that I expected her to. I fear I have wounded that beautiful woman.
My attention drifted to the new painting hung in my bedroom. In the way paintings are intended to, I will think of her every time I see it. My thoughts linger on it, and I realize the woman reminds me of Eve. Round and pale, with long dark hair. Chin tipped down, her eyes are mostly closed. Clearly she is lost in thought.
I needed to get away. I had to put some distance between us. She needed time to heal, and I had to find something else to focus on. My frustrations needed to be sated. It had been a long time since I went on vacation, and I was thinking I’m due for a break.
Suddenly feeling better, I got up and showered. Once I was dressed I moved to the kitchen to fix my breakfast. My mind was dizzy with the possibilities that come with vacation. I drained my glass and rinsed it before setting it in the sink.
Seated at my desk I started searching for flights out of the States. I settled on next Saturday, a flight to Milan. That will give me plenty of time to get my affairs in order.
I telephoned Marcus to ask him to look after my clients while I was gone. He was hesitant at first.
“I don’t know man. I don’t know anything about security.”
“You don’t have to know anything. All my clients are taken care of. I just need you to be my American contact in case anything does happen. If I can’t walk you through helping them, I will be on the next flight back to take care of it.”
“Well, that sounds pretty easy.”
“I’ll have the security company phone forwarded to your cell. I will leave you a key to the loft, where all the computers are, in case you need them. Did I mention this was a paying gig? You would be sort of a sub-contractor for me.”
“Alright, I can manage that, I think.”
“Sure you can. I have faith in you. Plus if you need me, I am only a phone call away. I am going to Milan, not the middle of a desert.”
“How long are you going to be gone?” he asked.
“Not sure yet. Just have some family things that need my attention. I’d rather not get into it. I only booked a one way for now. Could be a week, could be a couple months.”
“Holy crap man. A couple months? What about Eve? I thought you two were, you know, getting to know each other?”
“NO. I mean, we aren’t getting to know each other. Marcus, use some common sense. You know damn well I can’t have her.”
“Hey man, I was just asking. I didn’t mean to piss you off.”
“You didn’t. I am just a little high strung these days. I think this trip will be good for me.”
“Alright man. Well do you want me to come over now?”
“Yeah, that sounds like a plan. I can walk you through the computer system and give you the key. Oh, one more thing. Can you tell Eve I had to go out of town for a family emergency?”
“Well, I could. But I think you should talk to her.”
“I can’t Marcus. I just can’t right now.”
“Alright, I’ll tell her for ya.”
By the time Thursday rolled around I was all packed and ready to go. Everything was taken care of. Marcus was going to take care of my clients, and check by to pick up mail. He had agreed to speak with Eve. All that was left to do was wait. I considered changing to an earlier flight, but decided against it.
That night I drove out to Raven’s to visit and tell him about my plans. We were busy taunting each other over a game of pool. Reminiscing and laughing over old memories of Milan.
“Have you told Marta that your coming for a visit?” he asked.
“No. I thought I would surprise her. I don’t know if I will stay there or not. In fact, I don’t have a clue what my plans are. I am just trying to get a break.”
His mood turned sullen. “She is not going to make you forget about Eve. You know that don’t you James?”
I set the pool cue on the table. “I didn’t expect that she would. I don’t know what I expect.”
“I hope you find whatever it is your looking for there. But you will have to come back to reality eventually. I suspect Eve will still be here when you return.”
“I know but even you wouldn’t venture into a relationship with a mortal. I will only hurt her. We have seen it before. Our worlds don’t blend well together.”
“What do you mean? We can have sex with mortals. Love them even.”
“But what happens when time has gone by and she gets older?”
“James, I think your the one who is afraid of getting hurt. You know what it feels like to loose love. But news flash, your going to have a long and lonely existence by yourself.”
“Hey whats with the lecture?”
“No lecture, I’m just saying… Anyway, tell Marta I say hello.”
Marta is a very old, very beautiful member of our community. Raven and I have known her for many years. She is originally from Spain, but when we first met her, she lived on a small island in Denmark. She didn’t stay there long, and she soon found herself in Italy. She said aside from all the cloudy foggy days, Denmark didn’t have much to offer. She has been in Italy for as long as I can remember. Maybe the last 75 years. She is the head of one of the largest communities there. A big close knit family. I also consider myself part of her family, even though I haven’t visited in close to 15 years.
She and I have had loving affairs in the past. She has always been willing to pull me back to my roots. When I leave her I feel grounded. I have never found peace with what I am, but for the time I spend with Marta. There is no telling who she may be keeping company with these days. But I am always welcome there.
The flight was long, but at least it was non-stop. The city was dark and damp. I am not a fan of this kind of weather, but I can see what Marta likes about it. With so many foggy and rainy days it’s easy to move about in the day on occasion. I suspect that the weather explains our large populations here.
I took a taxi to her most current residence. She hadn’t always lived in a busy part of the city. At one time she had a large, stand alone, house in a less populated area. But Marta’s need to be around the action prompted her to move further into the city.
I rang her bell and a moment later the door was opened by a tall handsome boy. That was the first time I thought it might not have been a good idea to come.
“Marta?” I inquired
“One moment.” He said “Madam, you have a visitor” he called down the hall. Then he turned back to face me. He looked as though he was inspecting me, and I certainly didn’t recognize him.
Then I saw her, as beautiful as ever. Walking down the hall towards us in a long red satin housecoat that floated along behind her.
“James, darling. It’s been so long.” she started. The door boy took my bag and motioned for me to enter.
“What ever are you doing here?” She reached me throwing her arms around my neck and kissing both cheeks. When she stepped back I took her hand and kissed the top. “Marta, I do hope you don’t mind my intrusion.”
“Not at all. What a delightful surprise.”
“I was in desperate need of a holiday. In my heart there is no other place than Milan to take holiday.”
“Of course not. Your always welcome here. You will be staying with us, won’t you? I insist.”
“I hadn’t decided. This is an impromptu trip. Quite simply, I had to get away.”
She pulled me down the hall and the boy shut the door. “Are you hungry, can we get you anything?”
“Not hungry, so much. Just a little tired. I always forget what a long flight it is.”
“Ben.” she called out “Ben, be a dear and draw my James a bath of rose hips and oil, won’t you.”
Ben scurried up the stairs with my bag.
“You must stay. We have so much to catch up on. It would be foolish for you to take a room here in town.”
“Alright then,” I said “it’s settled. I will stay. Thank your for your hospitality.”
“Never you mind about that. You just missed some of the family, as they have departed for the evening. I’m sure you will see them while your here. How long do you plan to stay?”
We took our seats in the lounge. Marta does not enjoy the trappings of modern life. Although she could certainly afford to. She prefers to surround herself with the lavishness of days gone by. Her furnishings are aged and show wear. The seats have all been recently reupholstered in brilliant blue velvet, but one can still see the antique in these pieces. Long damask drapes. The large stone fireplace is the center of this room. Dotted with gorgeous, rich wood furniture, around the intricate hand woven rug.
“I am not sure how long I will stay. Until I feel better I guess. Or until duty calls back in the States.”
Ben reappeared in the doorway. “Your bath is ready sir. Madam, I am going to turn in if you don’t need anything else.”
Marta and I both stood. “Yes, Ben, that’s fine. Pleasant evening to you.” she said to him. Then she took me by the hand and led me up the stairs. “Ben is my boarder. If you need anything, he will be happy to get it for you. I keep him in my employ for a member of the family.”
“Ah. Anyone I know?”
“No.” she answered “But I am sure you will meet him.”
We reached her bathroom. The sizable tub juts out from the wall of an enormous bathroom. Rose hips and rose petals bobbing on the top of the water. In true Marta style, lit candles fill many of the flat surfaces as well as the numerous sconces hung on the walls.
She closed the door behind us. I saw that my bag had been laid on the sitting bench across from the tub. She helped me out of my coat and started to unbutton my shirt.
“Marta” I said grabbing her hands “there is no need to fuss over me.” She pulled out of my grasp, “I know. But you’ve had such a long trip. I’m simply trying to get you settled into the tub. Besides, I do so enjoy fussing over you.”
“It has been a long time hasn’t it?” I said, slipping my shoes off.
“Too long, but I forgive you. Did you bring a robe?”
I was sliding the last of my clothing off, “No I didn’t. I only brought a couple of things I can’t do without.” I stepped into the tub and lay across the length of it resting my back on it’s upward slope.
“I will get one for you.” she said, collecting my clothes.
When she returned she had a thick, dark blue robe draped over her arm and a glass of the drink in her hand. She set the glass on the table next to the tub, and hung the robe on a hook. She took a place behind me and started to rub my shoulders.
After 20 minutes or so, I sat up a little to take a sip of my drink. She started running her fingers through my hair. “Do you want me to wash your hair?”
“No thank you darling. I just wanted to relax a bit, and catch some sleep.”
“OK, then. It’s getting a little long. I don’t recall you keeping it this way. Maybe if the weather is fair tomorrow, we can go and get it cut. Maybe do a little shopping?”
“Shopping, fine. Haircut, no. I kind of like it this way. Don’t you like it this way?”
“I like it no matter how you keep it. I especially liked it when it was nearly down to your waist. Maybe that reminds me of your young and rebellious days.”
I laughed “It won’t ever be that long again. It was such a hassle. Can you hand me a towel please?”
She reached for the towel as I stood from the tub. Drying myself off, I realized how much better I felt. Relaxed, at ease. She helped me into the robe.
“You can have the room next to mine.” she started, picking up my bag. “Ben is in the biggest guest room, as he lives here now.”
She led me to my room and set my bag on the chest in front of the massive bed. “I’ll let you get some rest. If I am not up when you rise, please do, come and wake me.” She kissed my lips and left the room, shutting the door behind her.
I retrieved the phone from my bag and dialed Marcus.
“Hey man, hows it going?” he said.
“Everything is fine. I just got here. I wanted to let you know I arrived, and if you need me you can reach me on my phone.” I took a seat on a large, plush arm chair in one corner of the room.
“No problems on your flight?”
“Nope. I am headed to bed now. Call me if you need anything.”
“Will do man.”
Next I dialed Raven. He didn’t answer, which I thought was odd, but I left a message. I set my phone up to charge, draped my robe over one corner of the bed, and crawled between the plushness that is a Marta guest bed.
I guess I must have been more tired than even I realized. I awoke to the sounds of rustling throughout the rest of the house. I lay there, naked and half asleep for a few seconds before I noticed I was not alone. I slowly rolled over to see Marta sleeping peacefully beside me. Reaching out, I brushed the long dark hair from around her face. She took a deep breath in and opened her eyes halfway.
“I hope you don’t mind” she whispered “But I couldn’t sleep, knowing you were so close.”
“Humnn” I moaned, grabbing her hand and pulling it across my shoulder as I rolled back over. “I don’t quite feel like being awake yet.” I snuggled back into my pillow, with Marta’s arm draped over me. She snuggled up to my back, and it was then that I was aware she was naked. Her breasts pressed on my skin, she moved her arm under mine to hold on to my chest. We both fell back to sleep.
When I woke Marta was gone, and someone was gently tapping at my door. “Just a minute” I said starting to slide from between the covers. The door opened slowly and Marta slipped in and closed it behind her.
“I’m sorry to wake you James. But it’s getting late on in the evening, and I am expecting company.”
“How late? What time it is?”
“A little after 8. I went shopping without you.” she set a bag on the chair. “I hope you like them.” She pulled some clothing from the bag, holding each piece up for me to inspect. Black slacks, tan poets shirt, a few undershirts, a pair of satin boxers, and a pair of white cotton lounge pants.
After I pulled on the lounge pants, I picked up the poets shirt. “I don’t do ruffles anymore Marta. Actually, I am quite relieved not to wear them these days. Everything else is perfect.”
“Humph” she pouted, tossing the shirt back into the bag. “I did so adore you in them though.” She pulled a plain gray, short sleeve, button down out of the bag. “But I figured you might feel that way, so I got this too.”
“Ah” I said, taking the shirt form her “this is much better.” Collecting the rest of the clothes and my bag, I went to the bathroom to wash up. When I returned Marta was seated on the edge of the bed. “Well what do you think?” I asked
“I think the other shirt suits you better.” she laughed “But you look beautiful in anything.”
Soft music was drifting through the house as we made our way downstairs. Ben greeted us at the bottom of the staircase. “Is there anything I can get for you sir?”
“I’ll have a glass of the drink if you don’t mind” I answered
Marta grasped his arm to stop him, and looked at me. “We have fresh available this evening if it suits you James.”
“OK” I answered “Then I won’t be needing anything at this time, Ben. Thank you.”
I followed Marta to the lounge where most of the guests had gathered. I knew many of them and went around greeting, with kisses on the cheeks and firm handshakes.
Emanuel, Blythe, Annice and Marshall were all gathered around the fireplace. Each of them are old members of Marta’s family.
Their story is a torrid one. Emanuel came directly from Spain with Marta. He was her first love affair. When she tired of him, as often happens when faced with our lifetime, he took two lovers, Blythe and Annice. Blythe is a beautiful fair skinned woman who remains in his keep. Annice has broken away from the groups love affair, but is still close in the family terms. Marshall is Annice’s fair weather lover. When the community is settled and all is well he can be found close to her side. If things start to go south for this family, he’s among the first to run. One might say he has a great sense of self preservation.
Or at least that was the way things were when I last saw this group. Whatever the story may be, they are each quite entertaining of themselves. Having them all together almost guarantees a good time is to be had. Needless to say, they have always been among my favorites. So I saved them for last.
After making my way around the room I ventured over to the fireplace, where they seemed to be waiting on me.
“My friends… My old dear friends. How is everyone?”
I kissed Blythe and then Annice on their cheeks. Followed by warm hugs from Emanuel and Marshall. The ladies reclaimed their seats on either side of the quiet fireplace, with their men standing beside them.
Emanuel spoke up first. “Things these days are nothing to complain about. As I’m sure your well aware fair James, life is good for us.”
He still speaks with an undertone of days gone by. I suppose that has much to do with his keeping time under Marta’s wings. She is fond of the old ways and longs for those days. Her home, manner of dress and speech all reflect her longing. Emanuel is a little more modern, but especially in the matriarchs home, his speech still reflects his roots.
Marshall followed with a nod. “Yes, like Emanuel says, things are good. I have no complaints.”
“How about you, dear brother?” Emanuel asked “How are things in the States?”
“Business is good.” I answered “Sometimes I find it horribly boring, but I manage. What have I missed, while I’ve been away?”
Annice sat upright at my inquiry. “Now how do you expect an answer to such a broad sweeping question? After all you have been gone how long now?”
“Too long” I admitted.
“Well then,” she huffed
“So what your saying is, nothing terribly adventurous has happened in all those years?”
The whole group burst into laughter. “No” Emanuel said between snorts “There have been no great adventures.”
We chatted away the evening, catching up on the little things life has brought to each of us. I was filled in on the story of Ben. I told them of the sire and all his rouges back in the States. It was much like the gossip news that runs nightly Stateside.
Periodically I would steal a long look at Marta. Her stature is commanding although she is not at all tall. Full of grace, and demanding respect. She still every bit resembles an olive skin Spaniard. Thick, dark, bone straight hair flowing over her shoulders. Dark eyes shadowed by, what would be, thick eyebrows, were they not perfectly groomed.
She prefers dark primary colors and tonight she has chosen a stunning green dress. Her small breasts are pressing dangerously up from the corset top that is tied tightly at her back. Her waist is defined with a thick satin tie, fashioned in a bow behind her. All to common for Marta’s evening wear, her dress is not complete without the small hoop skirt and petticoat that I am certain hang underneath it.
Every once in a while she’d catch me looking at her and all I could do is smile. She tortured me for most of the night from just across the room, with her wicked smile and bedroom eyes. Finally she made her way over and slid her arm around my waist.
“Are you hungry darling?” She asked in a wispy voice.
“Maybe a little. What do you have to offer?”
“Come and retire with me over here” she motioned to the couches “and I will offer you something sweet.”
There had been a few mortals milling about, but I didn’t pay much attention to them. Like Raven, Marta has a small devoted group, that bend to her whims. She motioned for a young man to come and he did, taking a place next to her on the couch.
“This is my friend James” she said to him. He looked a little jealous, but said nothing. Marta made a hand motion and he offered me his wrist. I looked up at her, not comfortable with the situation. I like to think the offer is genuine, and the person truly wants to share the gift. He certainly did not look happy. At least not at sharing the gift with me. I also fancy taking my fresh from women. It’s not often that I take from another man.
“Oh, James” Marta began “You have this thing about taking a man. Foolish, but I understand.” She motioned to a lady standing near the wall of books and she hurried over to me. “There. Is that better.”
The girl knelt down on the floor and sat on her heals, sideways in front of me. Marta took the young man up on his offer, and bit down on him hard. He made a loud sucking sound through his teeth, but she did not release her grip.
Without a word the young woman before me pulled her sleeve up and offered herself to me. In a swift but gentle motion, I took her arm up to my mouth and began my drink. She moaned as if she liked my assault. After a moment, her head fell back onto my knee. I released her in that instant.
“Are you OK?” I asked
“Oh yes.” she stated “I think maybe I’ve had to much to drink is all.” She pressed a cloth to her arm, but she did not get up. Her head was still on my leg and I absentmindedly stroked her hair.
When a few minutes had passed and she did not move, I bent down to pick her up. I could hear her heart beat, she wasn’t dead. Rather, she was absurdly drunk and I laid her on the couch where I had been seated.
I stood over her, feeling a little like the boy who broke the sugar bowl.
“What have you done to that poor girl, James?” A voice came from behind me. I turned to look at Marshall. Marta broke her grip and looked at us.
“She is just drunk.” I defended “You know blood lose and booze doing go well together.” Everyone chuckled a little. Marta motioned for Ben to retrieve her. “The poor darling has had to much to drink.” she told him “Please see to it that she is resting comfortably in one of the guest rooms.” Marta has always been a good host.
The evenings guests were beginning to depart. Each of them stopping to say it was good to see me, before thanking Marta for hosting. There was handshaking and kisses along with promises to see more of each other.
Marta and I stood in the hallway as Ben closed the door behind the last of them. “Madam” he began “If you don’t need anything else.”
“Yes, Ben. A pleasant evening to you.”
With that he was up the stairs and disappeared into his room.
Marta took my hand. “Stay with me tonight James.” It was more of a gentle plea than a question.
“I would have it no other way” I said, as she lead me up the stairs by my hand.
She locked the heavy wooden door to her bedroom behind us.
“I would like to draw a bath” she said, walking towards the door across from her bed. “Will you sit with me?”
“I’ll do anything you like Marta. You know that.” I took off my shoes and shirt and went to meet her in the bathroom. The water was already streaming into the claw-footed tub, filling it quickly. Marta was bent over it swirling her hand in the water.
I stepped up behind her and began to unlace her corset. She helped me along at getting her undressed. “Lay it over the lounge in the bedroom, if you don’t mind.” I did as I was told.
When I came back she was already in the tub. I stripped off the rest of my clothes and climbed in behind her. She eased back into me and we sat for a long time relaxing.
“It was nice to see everyone again after so long.”
“Yes. When I told them you were here, they couldn’t wait to come and visit.”
I picked up the large sponge from the tub-side table and soaked it in the water. I drained the drenched sponge over her exposed body, again and again. Then I released the front of her hair from the clip that was holding it back.
“Wash your hair my love?” I whispered into her ear.
“Not this evening.” She began running her fingers up and down my thighs on either side of her. “I think I would like to retire for now.” She stood up in the tub and grabbed a towel from it’s hook. As she stepped out I sat watching her.
An amazing sight of a woman Marta was. Naked and wet and completely relaxed. She toweled herself off slowly, making a show if it for me. Humming some tune or another under her breath. When she wrapped the towel around herself I made my departure from the tub.
I was much less graceful than her at drying myself off. But she stood in the doorway admiring anyway.
When I was finished she walked back into the bedroom and deposited her towel at the end of her bed. She stood there naked for only a moment before I took her up in a long kiss.
I pulled back the cover on her high four poster bed and she claimed the spot I had made. She lay there, exposed like so few people had ever seen her. Her breasts were small but perfect. She has a slight pear shape to her body. When she put her arms over her head she looked like one, elegant, curved line.
I hesitated only a moment, taking in the sight of her, before walking to the end of her bed. I crawled up it towards her, laying kisses all the way. On the backs of each calf, and the curve of her knees. Gently I pushed at the tops of her thigh so that I might kiss their insides. I massaged and kissed her legs. Just touching her made me aroused. It had been such a long time for me.
I unhitched my towel, threw it to the floor and pulled the cover up over my lower half. Sneaking my way up her I just grazed her hair before laying kisses on her hips. She wiggled with anticipation, she is not known for her patience.
I slid down a little so that my nose rested in her soft hair. I inhaled the scent of her, it had been to long since I had tasted a woman. I pressed my hands into her thighs, gently coaxing them open.
We took the time to enjoy the complete connection of two sexual beings, before she began rocking her hips. A slow torture for me, these in and out motions. She knew I was in her complete control. She continued her slow manipulation for a long time. Finally the fever overtook her and she sat up straight and ground herself down on me. I held on to her hips for lack of any better strategy. Her head was thrown back, breasts in her hands.
She began a slamming rock, which was sure to bring on my orgasm. I was starting to wonder how long it at been for her, as she seemed quite fierce in her efforts. When her face grimaced and she began to moan, I started to feel my own release coming.
She lowered her body down onto me again, and I quickly flipped her. I did not mean to be so rough or hurried, but I couldn’t help myself. She didn’t seem to mind and pulled me down to her. She knew, I was close. She also knew that when I get there, I bite. I found that spot on her, where her neck meets her shoulder. Nuzzled into her hair, I began my last sprint. Sliding hard in then back out of her. Trying to control myself, trying not to offend her with my greed. As soon as I felt the spasm begin I bit down on her. She growled with pleasure and I am pretty sure I did the same. As I released my pent up frustrations, teeth still firmly attached, we rocked together, riding it out.
Things in Italy were calm and relaxing, as any vacation should be. Marta and I continued our affair as if we had never left off. I got to know Ben, and found that I also enjoyed his company. I caught up with family that I had not seen in quite some time. I even had the pleasure of getting out during the day, to visit an internet cafe’ and pay some of my bills online.
Marcus telephoned every few days to check in. Letting me know if I had anything important in the mail, which I didn’t.
About a week into my visit Eve called to see how things were going. She said she was concerned that I had been away so long and hoped the family emergency was working itself out OK. She seemed more at ease than when I last saw her. And it was clear to me that we would still be friends when I returned.
A couple of minutes into our conversation, she made a long pause and I asked “What?”
“I need to confess to you James.”
“What could you possibly have to confess to me?”
“When Marcus and I came to your place, before we went to that Jazz club” another pause. “I noticed a pretty piece of paper on your desk in the living room. I didn’t mean to snoop, but it just caught my attention. Do you know the paper I am talking about? The parchment paper?”
“Yes.” I said, waiting for her to continue.
“Well, I sort of read it. I’m sorry, I knew after I read it that it was private, but it was too late by then.”
“Well, since we are in the confessional, I will say, I already knew that.”
“You knew I read it? How?”
“Because when you stepped back from my desk you had an embarrassed look on your face. It was the only thing there, that I know of, that might do that to you.”
“Oh. Well I just wanted to let you know and tell you I am sorry for snooping.”
“Since we’re on the subject, what did you think of it?”
She held another pause and then answered “No comment.” I laughed out loud.
Then she continued “So listen I have to get going. I hope everything is OK out there in Milan. And if you should be overcome with the need to bring me back a souvenir, I wouldn’t be upset.”
“Alright, I’ll see what I can do.”
Mine and Marta’s affair was cooling off in a little more than 3 weeks time. But one night after a particularly strenuous session, I laid awake next to her while she slept. Her breathing was heavy and I knew she was in a deep sleep. She began to mumble in Italian. I didn’t pay it much mind until she uttered my name. James is James in any language.
“Da che cosa state nascondendo James? Non si può nascondere per sempre qui.” And then some more muffled words, which I could not quite hear.
My Italian is pretty rough these days. Best I could tell, she was asking what I was doing or running from. And then that I could not hide here forever, or something along those lines.
I stayed awake a long while pondering what she said, but probably didn’t want me to hear.
The next evening I told Marta I was considering fanning out from Milan to see what could be seen. Sort of an exploration, it had been so long since my last visit. Maybe to Rho for some shopping, or sight seeing. Maybe to Monza to visit a museum there.
We had already visited my favorite local museums, da Vinci Museum of Science and Technology and the Bagatti Valsecchi. We also stopped by many of the high end label stores for a lot of shopping. Hence the reason I only brought what I couldn’t live without from the States.
At Dolce e Gabbana I picked up a nice little handbag and a pair of rock star shades for Eve. I found a very nice hat to add to Marcus’ collection. And for Raven, a nice bottle of Vietti Barolo Rocche.
She said it sounded like fun, but that she could not accompany me this trip.
I was rather enjoying my side trip. Having decided on Monza I took a room there, so I could spend a couple of days. The Hotel De La Ville Monza, in and of itself, an escape from reality. An old world feel with all the amenities of modern life. The garden quickly became my favorite part of the place. On my first night I wished Marta could have come with me. She would have adored the antique furnishings.
The weather on my third day was very cooperative. Grey and gloomy, very overcast. I took full advantage of this and spent the afternoon on foot touring the town. It threatened to rain all day, but only drizzled for a few moments, at which point I ducked into a museum. After the full tour I decided to head back to the hotel for an early dinner at the hotel restaurant bar.
I was halfway through my second glass of Amarone when my phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number.
“Sheffield.” I answered in my usual manner.
“Mr. James Sheffield?” the raspy old voice came from the other end.
“I don’t know if you remember me sir. But I spoke with you maybe a month ago, under the bridge on Slaitor Street.”
“You gave me your card and said if I had any other information to call you.”
“Yes, that’s right. What do you have for me?”
“I’m not entirely sure it has anything to do with the guy you were looking for, but I didn’t know what else I should do.”
“Well there have been some more of those types of people hanging around here. The ones who sort of look like scary rock stars. Just like the guy you described to me.”
“I see. Any idea what they are doing down there?”
“No sir. None of them have talked to me. I didn’t really think much of it, until some of the regular folks around here started, well… not being here anymore. Even then I didn’t put to much thought into it, as you know homeless people come and go.”
“Right, but something changed?” I asked him
“Yeah. My pal Scott hasn’t been around for a couple of days now. I know him pretty well. We have looked out for each other for years. It’s not like him to be away for so long. I might have figured he wasn’t in trouble, except that others have stopped coming around too.”
He sounded exasperated. Like he had no where else to turn.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name last time we spoke sir.”
“My goodness, how rude of me. My name is Henry.” he said “Henry Collins”
“Alright Henry. I assume you have looked for your friend?”
“Yes, everywhere that I thought he could be. Nothing.”
“Where are you now?” I asked
“I am at a payphone, couple-a-blocks up from the bridge.”
“Tell ya what. Give me a couple of minutes to make some calls. I will send someone down there to talk with you. I would come myself, but I am out of the country right now.”
“OK. You want me to stay at the payphone or what?”
“Yeah, tell me what your nearest intersection is, and I will send my guy down to get you.”
After I hung up with Henry, I dialed Marcus and gave him instructions to take a doorman with him down to where Henry was waiting. Then to go with him to the bridge and see what they could find out from everyone else down there. When they were done Marcus was to take Henry home, give him a good meal and a shower, and let him stay until I returned.
Next I called Raven, and filled him in on what I knew.
“This is the thing James” he began “You were on holiday, so I didn’t want to bother you. But we are having serious problems around here. We haven’t figured it out as of yet, but the rogue populations seem to be exploding.”
“Raven, you should have called me. I could have been helpful.”
“I know this sort of thing isn’t your specialty.” he defended. “But your right the more good guys the better.”
“I will be on the next flight home. I’ll get there as soon as I can.”
Back at Marta’s I explained what was happening in the States.
“I’m sorry to leave on such short notice, but I really think I should be home right now.”
“You are absolutely right James. These sort of things can not be tolerated. I will come with you, and I am sure there are other members of the family who will be of service.”
“I’m not sure that’s necessary.” I said to her. “I don’t know how big the problem is.”
“I insist. I will make a few calls and pack a bag. We will fly out as soon as possible.”
“Alright, I am sure Raven will appreciate the help.”
All told six of us flew to back to the States. Marta and myself, Emanuel and Blythe, and two other members of Marta’s family, Patrick and David. Marshall, of course, couldn’t tear himself away, and Annice decided to stay with him. Between us there wasn’t one drop of new blood. I was sure we would be a force of nature.